Back in October 2018, Cathay Pacific started selling lounge access to raise ancillary revenue. It’s certainly not the first airline to do this (US airlines have been selling lounge passes for ages, and Emirates and Etihad recently followed suit), but it still came as a surprise to me given the risk of “diluting” the experience for premium cabin or elite status travelers.
Initially, only access to the lounges in Manila, Vancouver and Melbourne was available for purchase at HKD600/US$75 per person. Since then, the program has slowly expanded to include Kaohsiung, Paris and Penang. Cathay’s flagship lounge in Hong Kong, however, has historically been off-limits. That’s going to change from 4 March 2019.
Economy class travelers can now purchase access to The Pier Business Class lounge in HKG
From 4 March to 30 June 2019, passengers flying on Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon can purchase access to The Pier Business Class lounge in HKG for HKD600/US$75 per person, or for 9,000 Asia Miles (which, for the record, I value at way more than US$75).
Although other Cathay lounges allow you to pay at the entrance, for The Pier you’ll need to pay at the check-in counter or transfer desk in areas E2/W1; you won’t be able to pay at the lounge.
Is it worth it?
Would I pay US$75 to access The Pier? It depends on how long my stay is. People who get to the airport real early, or have long connections over 3 hours may get some utility out of this, especially if they use the full suite of services.
Louis visited The Pier back in Feb 2018 and found the experience to be very high quality. Among the highlights were the Food Hall, with an extensive spread of hot and cold buffet items…
…the Noodle Bar, where you can get a selection of made-to-order favourites like wonton noodles, dan dan noodles, and dim sum…
…the Bar, where the champagne flows freely…
…and the showers which have Aesop amenities. It’s a good thing they’ve bolted the bottles to the wall.
Put it another way- you could go out in the terminal and spend that US$75 on a good meal, but you wouldn’t have access to things like showers, relaxation rooms or the general privacy of the lounge. If your goal is the best possible F&B experience, spend that US$75 elsewhere. If you want to get work done, grab a bite and a shower, then this might be an acceptable price to pay.
That said, one should also remember that Hong Kong features a Plaza Premium First facility, a new lounge concept that does a pretty decent job of replicating a traditional airline’s First Class ground experience.
Passengers get premium food and beverage options (including a sit-down restaurant with dishes made to order), complimentary massage treatments and bathrooms stocked with high-end products like Elemis.
When I visited, they were offering Priority Pass cardholders the opportunity to purchase access in exchange for one regular lounge visit plus HKD200 (S$35). Since I had an unlimited visit Priority Pass, the cost was effectively S$35, which I’d pay again in a heartbeat given the great experience I had.
I’m not sure if that offer is still available (the regular price is a hefty HKD880 for a 3 hour visit), but if it is I’d pick this over paying HKD600 for The Pier, good as it may be.
It’s one thing for Cathay to monetize its outstation lounges, but quite another to open up paid access to its flagship lounges in HKG. One wonders how Cathay’s elites feel about this move, although the vast majority won’t even be aware of it so long as overcrowding doesn’t become an issue.
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